Best Ways to Recycle and Compost Dog Waste Free

Updated on May 8, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Dog waste should be composted, not put into a septic tank; it heats up enough to destroy pathogens and provides nutrients that can be utilized in your yard and under your trees. Composting dog waste also keeps tons of material being added to a system already overwhelmed. This article will explain how to correctly make a compost heap out of your dogs waste without buying all of those things other sites are trying to sell you.

Being "green" should include composting your dog´s waste.
Being "green" should include composting your dog´s waste. | Source

It is unfortunate that since the introduction of Steve Solomon´s great Organic Gardeners Composting back in the 1980s that so many people have followed his suggestions without reasoning them out. Mr. Solomon-unaware of how to correctly compost dog stools to destroy parasites-recommended that dog waste not be added to compost. Since then most articles recommend the same. For fifteen years there have been sites on the internet that claim to be “composting” dog waste but are actually proposing the construction of small sewage systems.

You can compost your dog´s poop.

Dog waste (poop) should be composted, not put into a septic tank, because it heats up enough to destroy the pathogens and provides nutrients that can be utilized in your yard. Composting dog waste, and not throwing it in a landfill, also keeps tons of material being added to a system already overwhelmed.

This article is not about to teach you how to build a dog waste septic system. If you want to do that you can go out and buy a barrel and then there are about 100 other sites on the internet that will show you what to do. Sewage systems that require the purchase of large plastic containers and chemical inoculants purchased at the grocery store are neither friendly to the environment nor friendly to your budget.

This article will tell you the benefits of correctly composting your dog´s stool and also tell you how to do it properly. If you have a cat, and you use biodegradable litter, her waste can be added also.

Dog poop should not be thrown in a bin and ignored. The problem is yours.
Dog poop should not be thrown in a bin and ignored. The problem is yours. | Source

Why bother composting dog waste?

Each year tons of dog stool are thrown into trash cans and end up in sanitary landfills. When dog waste is composted it becomes a nutrient that will improve your yard and trees. When your soil is lacking in organic matter no amount of chemical fertilizer you purchase is going to improve things the way you want. The compost you produce, with the material you already have on hand (dog waste), will improve things the way you want.

If you live in an apartment I realize that this is not a viable option. You have nowhere to compost and wouldn’t have anything to do with the compost anyway.


Are there problems with using dog waste?

There are some pathogens that can spread from dogs to humans. Most of the bacteria will die easily, and in The Humanure Handbook (Chapter 7, Worms and Disease) the author says that roundworms can survive for 90 days in a shady area.

The University of Minnesota did some research in this area and determined that in order to destroy harmful worm eggs your compost would need to exceed 165 degrees for five days. The University of Oregon ran tests and determined that a compost pile that reached 130 degrees and was turned five times (at 3 day intervals) would no longer contain pathogens.

Do something about your dog´s poop.
Do something about your dog´s poop. | Source

If you live in a suburb and only have a small space your really need to build or buy a compost system. I have added a plan here and there are numerous videos available on YouTube to help you build a compost bin. If you need further instructions on how to utilize this composting system you can purchase an e-book called Humanure Toilet Instruction Manual.

If your space is smaler and you want an easy composter, just use a trash can.
If your space is smaler and you want an easy composter, just use a trash can. | Source
If you have more room, a compost bin can be easily built for your dog´s waste.
If you have more room, a compost bin can be easily built for your dog´s waste. | Source

How do I compost dog waste the right way?

You do not need to buy a storage bin, you certainly do not need to buy a chemical to add to your compost mixture. The process is ridiculously simple.

1.Mark the area where you will be composting. Some people will need to do it in a trash bin to save space, and if you have a smaller back yard this is the best way. If you need to save money find an old trash bin that someone is throwing out--just drill holes around the side and in the bottom of the trash bin and put it in the place where you want to make your compost. (If you have a larger yard you might want to build a compost bin out of old wood or pallets that you can get for free; if you live on a farm just make a pile and do not even bother building a structure to hold the compost.)

2.When you pick up a shovel full of dog stool, cover it with a shovel full of carbon material like grass clippings. (Since the carbon: nitrogen ratio of dog stool is about 6:1—similar to chicken manure and much better than cow manure—you only need to add about one scoop of carbon material to cover two scoops of stool.) I have a friend who is a carpenter so I always have access to wood shavings; that is what I use. If you want to use grass clippings that is fine, and since they rot quickly they are even a better choice.

3.Every few days (if you need a rigid schedule do it every Monday and Thursday) toss a shovel full of old compost on to the pile so that there will be beneficial bacteria to speed up the digestion. If you are starting out, just use dirt from your garden. If you have seen those other sites that tell you to buy a product and dump it on top of your compost, do not buy! Those "starter bacteria" are all found in dirt and you do not need to waste your money.

4.Keep the pile moist; if you have fish add their water when you are cleaning out their tank.

5.Optional: If you really want to produce high quality compost, add some worms. (This is called vermicomposting.) You will need to add fruit peelings and coffee grounds as an additional feed for the worms but they will also eat the dog stool. They will produce a high quality fertilizer. By the time the worms have consumed your dog stool compost you will have high quality humus that will contain no pathogens. There are many articles available on how to farm red worms and if you want to go this direction you really should read more. If you run into any that tell you not to use dog waste, they are wrong. They are repeating incorrect information.

An acquaintance of mine has an organic coffee plantation; he maintains all of the plants only on humus produced by his worms. If you have purchased organic coffee at Starbucks or your grocery store then you already use humus. If you use worms you will be able to produce your own.

If you are fecophobic you can add dog waste in biodegradable bags to your compost heap. It is going to take many more years to return to soil if you use this method, and I certainly do not suggest trying to add worms as they will have nothing to feed on.

Will Dog Feces Kill The Worms in My Compost?

Some dogs are given a monthly topical flea control or now take an oral flea control. These medications work in several ways but most of them affect the nervous system of insects. Those that do not cause the insect´s exoskeleton to not form correctly.

They all affect insects. Earthworms, those wonderful animals that help build your compost, are Annelids, not insects. There are no studies done to show that these products will affect your earthworms, even in massive quantities, and in the tiny quantities passed in dog feces the people recommending you not use dog feces for this reason are being ridiculous.

If you are willing to spend the time to compost your dog´s stool, I hope that you use natural flea control instead of applying yet another chemical to your dog.

Banana trees are great places to use your dog compost.
Banana trees are great places to use your dog compost. | Source
Young papaya trees will thank you for the dog waste compost.
Young papaya trees will thank you for the dog waste compost. | Source

How to use dog poop?

I would not eat a teaspoonful of dog waste compost. Neither would I eat a teaspoonful of humanure compost, chicken manure compost, or fresh dirt. If you have maintained a proper composting system the product will have no pathogens, but I still recommend it be used on your lawn, on your ornamental bushes, and around your trees. I have about a dozen coconut and many banana trees that are always searching for additional nutrients. If you have fruit trees, a hedge, or a lawn they will appreciate the compost and pay you back by flourishing.

The compost is ready to be used when it looks like regular soil. I cannot tell you an exact time because it will vary depending on your environmental conditions. If you live in the northern US your compost heap will not even heat up during the winter; here in the tropics (and with a healthy worm population working on my compost), my pile is usually ready to spread in about 3 months. I have compost piles in several areas and tend to leave it longer.

If you want to destroy our environment by selfishly throwing your dog´s stool into our landfills, or (even worse) buy a product that freezes the feces before you pick it up just so that the task will be a little easier, perhaps you are not the type of person who should even be owning a dog.

Think about it.

If you do not feel safe using the compost for your food you can fertilize your flowers.
If you do not feel safe using the compost for your food you can fertilize your flowers. | Source

Are you ready to be a responsible dog owner?

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All dogs produce waste, so get rid of it correctly.
All dogs produce waste, so get rid of it correctly. | Source

Questions & Answers

  • In his book entitled "How to Start a Worm Bin" Henry Owens states not to use "dog or cat poop" that it is "toxic" and that "flea-killing meds can be especially toxic". I would think that the chemicals would have long since broken down, since flea meds need to be administered routinely or the dog is not protected. Would you speak to this?

    People like Henry Owens are repeating stupid things they read from books and have no idea what is toxic. There is nothing wrong with using dog fecal material since, as you point out, any trace amount of chemical would have broken down in the months that the compost is decomposing. Even if there were a trace left in the feces, none of the flea preventatives are toxic to worms or lower worm fertility.

© 2012 Dr Mark

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    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      As far as the worms and the chickens, I cannot imagine there would be any problems. My chickens eat a lot worse, and eat the worms and beatles out of the stool from my dogs and livestock.

      I am not sure how thick it can be, but when it rains or you water it the grass is going to be exposed so it will start growing through. I would think you would have to put 4 or 5 inches on top to create a problem.

      Two months is great. I think you can let the dogs on there as soon as it moves down into the soil a bit, a week or so.

      Good luck digging that next pit. Fun, huh?

    • profile image

      bone2bwild 

      7 weeks ago

      Dr, Mark thanks sooo much! I left the mulch pit for two months before pulling it all out and putting it on the grass, so can the dogs go ahead have access? I saw your pic of the three pits, I only have enough room for 1 more and i will be digging that this week-great idea by the way, no down time :) . When putting it on the grass, (St. Augustine by the way) if I cover the top of the grass top with too much mulch, will it kills the grass? (seems like it will, so I will be careful not too). Your info is INVALUABLE!!! So glad I found your site!! So many said don't put in the poop!!!

      Last questions (for now lol) Gave a friend with chickens a 5 gallon bucket with a bunch of worms-is it okay for her chickens to eat the worms?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      bone2bwild--how long ago did you stop adding feces before you took it out and spread it on the grass? If it had been several months, no problem as the parasite eggs, if any, would have all been destroyed. If you added it until the last day then there is more likelihood of there being parasite eggs in the compost, and the ground where you spread it has to be kept "dog free" even . There is controversy on how long, but at least several months.

      I would stop worrying about wetting it. It will not heat up any more once spread out. The earthworms probably left plenty of egg packages in the compost that was left in the pit, so you will not need to add any later.

      Not sure if that muck in the middle is heating up or not. I would spread it on plants where the dogs do not have access. A flower bed? I would not worry about the rocks.

      It sounds like you have already done a great job. I am glad someone out there is thinking about the right thing to do!

    • profile image

      bone2bwild 

      7 weeks ago

      I run a dog day care and created a 4' wide, 4' deep mulch pit in the ground. I have been filling and turning it for 1.5 years, with cuttings, dirt and poop. There were thousands of worms . Yesterday it was ready to empty. I put all of it on the grass yard areas and fenced off those areas so no dogs can get to them. Couple questions: Now that it is on the grass, keep it wet? How long until the dogs can play on it again? Was I supposed to wait for the worms to burrow back into the ground inside the mulch pit before putting on the grass? I also have a lot of gravel and rocks, and lots of the rocks and gravel ended up in the mulch pit-not gonna remove rocks and gravel form dogs poop lol is that a problem? I have my sink water running into the pit to keep it moist, but all the water kind of drops into a central area of the pit, so I have a lot of "black clay-like" goo-should this not be used? It looks and smells funny, not like the rest of the pit-that mulch looked and smelled amazing!

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      2 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Aaron, the parasite eggs, if there are any, would still be present for that month. As far as spreading, however, this is not possible. If you were to eat the compost before it was ready you could become infected.

      What is the solution? Do not eat it. At the moment I have my compost piles in a low area of my garden. When it does rain, the water is not going to rise up to the level of my peanuts and sweet potatoes, much less to the height of my corn. Your idea of putting the compost pile where the excess runs to the river is excellent.

      If your dogs are free from internal parasites this is not even an issue. All you have to do is let the pile warm up enough to destroy the bacteria in the feces. Time will also do this, and I have several piles so I always leave my compost unitl it is quite old anyway.

      Thanks for reading. I appreciated your comments.

    • profile image

      Aaron 

      2 months ago

      No comments for a while but great advice. We are trying to find a way to properly dispose of our dog waste. They can fine people in our town for left out dog waste even in your yard. We live close to rivers, beaches and the concern over parasites is their reason. They say to throw it out in our trash however. I see that as adding to a problem, it could just pollute water elsewhere. Also we compost anyway to reduce waste and what goes into landfills. Flushing would add to our septic which would pollute anyways, So we figured there must be a safe way to contain it, kill the parasites, and ultimately compost it so it's safe.

      My only question and concern is composting with drainage holes, if it takes a month or longer to reach the temps of 130-165* to kill the parasites would that still be safe during that period or is there a risk of parasites spreading until they're destroyed? That's the only upside to the septic system I see is containment. So the main reason I want to compost is to prevent parasites from spreading, is that the best option for that?

      We are planning a spot for this away from our food gardens, our normal compost pile, and where the water runs down to the river the best possible.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      As we now have my daughter's chocolate labrador visiting occasionally, this makes for interesting reading.

    • profile image

      Zachary Maresh 

      10 months ago

      As a pet owner in an apartment complex in Huntsville, Alabama, I am wondering how to properly compost my dog's waste. The only composting facilities are in TN and GA, and I do not know if they accept dog waste. Furthermore, the cost with properly transporting said waste makes that option infeasible. I suppose I will have to figure out via YouTube and other materials how to build my own very small anaerobic digestion device / composting apparatus. It is a pity that the majority of dog owners here just leave their poop on the grass, and that this will not likely change without a LOT of effort.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      22 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks for reading! Imagine all of those dogs up in Alaska. What a lot of poo.

    • Solaras profile image

      Solaras 

      22 months ago

      I have a compost heap and plenty of poo - I I'm happy to give this a try. Thanks for the great hub - it makes sense to me!

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks for your great comments. There are not nearly enough people cognizant of just how important this issue is. Most pet owners just think throwing it in the trash makes the problem go away!!!

    • profile image

      Rule 56 

      5 years ago

      Finally some sensible advice about composting pet poop. You're spot on. Healthy dogs don't produce diseased waste. Even if they did, the temperature and microbial competition in the compost pile will kill any pathogen-laden poop. Composting the waste is the only responsible way to dispose of it. Glad to see someone else out the advocating it.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks I set up my "featured hubs" a little differently, and am not sure that would work. I am thinking about changing it a little, though, so will keep this in mind.

    • Jesse Mugnier profile image

      Jesse Mugnier 

      5 years ago from Jersey

      No problem I'm glad I could help! Since posting this comment yesterday, I did a little experiment. I had my most popular hub as my first "featured" hub on my profile page. I took that down last night and put up one of my hubs that was not as popular and had the 'traffic failing' triangle next to it.

      The result: My not as popular hub is no longer losing traffic and had more views. My most popular hub had a 'traffic failing' triangle, with not as many views as usual.... Might be a good idea to feature this hub if you really want more people to see it.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks for the tip. I just added five new tags with "garden" and also added some that have nothing to do with dog waste, like "how to compost". I appreciate you taking the time to help.

    • Jesse Mugnier profile image

      Jesse Mugnier 

      5 years ago from Jersey

      Hey DrMark, I just read this, and it is really interesting! I know we talked about tags, maybe you should include a tag about gardening somehow, considering you do mention that this is "a nutrient that will improve your yard and trees". Just a thought... :)

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      No, anthrax sporulates. I think you can destroy the spores by warm heat but I would have to research it.

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 

      5 years ago

      Interesting. What is the life stage of Anthrax that can survive for years in the soil? I thought that was the prion.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Toxoplasmosis cysts should be destroyed just as easily as toxocara (roundworm) cysts.

      No research has been done on prions, but I suppose that they would be very easy to kill in compost. Much easier than other organisms, in fact.

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 

      5 years ago

      How well does that work on prions?

      Depending on where you live and how your sewage system works, flushing cat dooky can transmit toxoplasmosis to other animals. Otters are especially susceptible.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hey wetnosedogs this seems tailor-made for your situation! I can only imagine how many bags of dog food you go through in a month.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi Dirt Farmer! There are as many misconceptions about the use of dog poo as there are about the use of humanure. Even if you do not measure the temperature of your compost pile, turning it frequently should provide adequate mixture of any pathogenic organisms. Even if you do not want to turn it, using the dog waste compost as a worm bed will provide you plenty of nearly-sterile humus to use on your garden. EVEN if you don´t trust your worms, you can use the humus/compost on your lawn and hedges. And living in Maryland, your compost pile is going to be inactive during the winter so if I were you I would only harvest and utilize the humus twice a year (late spring and early fall).

      Thanks for the comment Mary. I know my Maltese does not provide enough stool for a large heap but with my Pit Bull the situation is quite different. Leaving it in the yard is not good though because it attracts flies. If you collected it and threw it in a corner, then covered it with a little grass each day, in a few years there would be soil there and it would never smell nor draw flies. I realize it does not seem necessary but it is a better alternative.

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 

      5 years ago from Alabama

      Very interesting hub. Something I didn't know at all.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

      Geez. I don't know! Sometimes compost doesn't heat up enough to kill weed seeds, although it looks okay. Can I be certain my compost is hot enough to kill the pathogens in dog poo without taking the compost's temperature?

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Wow! I just learned something new today. Thanks for all this great info. My miniature schnauzer poops about the size of a pencil, thank goodness. She has her very own private large yard. I just leave it there. Maybe I'm wrong.

      I voted this UP, etc. and will share.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I forgot to add, thanks for your visit! I want to get this message out to as many people as possible and was really disappointed at all the bad suggestions I saw on the internet. Thank you again for taking the time to read this.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      That is a much better way to dispose of it than a landfill, but even human waste that is sent to a sewage treatment plant is wasted (another pun!). I don´t know how big your yard is but I do know you utilize organic products; do your purchase chemical fertilizers for your lawn? Your Schnauzer´s waste could be used in place of those fertilizers and at the same time you would be decreasing the burden on your towns sewage treatment system.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This is interesting, but since my dog uses our back yard for her potty place, I simply "scoop the poop" from the ground and flush it down the toilet in my bathroom. This eliminates (sorry about the pun) the need to toss it in the trash. Works for me.

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